So do you remember back in 2007, when you went to see Grindhouse and they had all those "trailers"? You remember. There was the slasher spoof Thanksgiving, and my personal favorite, Werewolf Women of the SS. Well, in the Canadian release of the film, they got a different fake trailer called Hobo With A Shotgun about a city where crime is rampant and one lone hobo says "enough", and dispenses justice with a shotgun. It was vile, brutal and bloody and like the other trailers that went with the movie it was just as amusing as Machete. And like Machete, four years later we get a full film version, this time with Rutger Hauer replacing David Brunt as the Hobo. I was really looking forward to seeing this one but sadly, I'm wondering if it was really necessary.
I've got this idea for a movie.
So a Hobo rides the rails into a town called Hope Town where the Hope has been spray painted over with the word scum as we look over a body of water at a depressing and decaying urban landscape. The city is awash in criminality and lawlessness and we quickly come to meet the ruling family of crime, the Drake and his sons, Slick and Ivan. After a quick manhole cover decapitation, they move on to their evil headquarters. But what is this, the hobo follows them? Why would he do that? And of course, when Slick attempts to abscond with a prostitute to do who knows what vile things, the hobo steps in and makes a citizens arrest, saving the prostitute. The hobo then takes Slick to the cops and demands to see the Chief of Police. Sadly, it turns out the Chief and all of his officers are dirty and they let Slick and Ivan carve a message into the hobo's chest before tossing him into the trash. Stumbling away, the hobo is in turn saved by the prostitute, who's name is Abby. After a night of sleep, the hobo is healthy enough to leave and, hoping to fulfill his dream of buying a lawnmower, he goes of to debase himself for the $50 he needs to buy said lawnmower. At the pawn shop, he ends up having to choose between his lawnmower or a shotgun in order to stop the armed thugs trying to rob the pawn shop and shoot a baby. What follows is a classic revenge story reminiscent of Paul Kersey. There are a few interesting plot devices used to mix up the story, but it's pretty straightforward once the hobo actually gets the shotgun.
I love these metal monsters.
Storywise, there's not a lot of meat on these bones and where previous grindhouse genre revisits worked because of their own self-awareness, this doesn't have that same feel. It tries to be both an exploitation film from the late 70's and early 80's as well as an homage to the exploitation genre, and it really should choose which side of the fence it wants to stand on since it doesn't really work. That being said, there are two very good parts to this movie. The first is the concept of the Plague. The Plague are a pair of heavily armored, motorcycle driving mercenaries that seem to have been killing for money forever. Literally, forever. There's a scene where one of them is making a trophy for capturing the hobo, a picture with a red line painted over the eyes, while the other one wrestles a tentacled beast back into it's dungeon, and right next to the picture of the hobo is a picture of Jesus. I love those two metal clad monsters.
But the absolute best thing about this has got to be Rutger Hauer. His performance at times in this things is absolutely heart-breaking. With all of the bad films he's done, one might assume that he might just phone in a performance for something like this, but he really does bring his A-game and nails this character down, giving the hobo complexity and real dimensionality. Sadly his performance doesn't really make this film for me. It was enjoyable but entirely missable.